When I became Vice President of Adelphi University’s NSSLHA chapter, it occurred to me just how many members were struggling in their phonetics and linguistics classes.
I’d enjoyed and done fairly well in both courses, so I stepped in to help anyone who came to me with questions. But my course load was heavy, and I found it difficult finding the time to help everyone with their sporadic homework questions, on top of my own. So, I started directing students to Adelphi’s Tutoring Center—known for having student tutors in almost all subjects.
But there was a problem. Due to the low number of CSD students on campus, they weren’t equipped to help students in our major. It was frustrating to see how this left so many of my friends and fellow NSSLHA members on their own to struggle.
Becoming an Official Tutor
I couldn’t let this happen. So, I contacted the Tutoring Center and requested to be an official tutor in phonetics and linguistics for CSD students. Because of the growing demand that year, they happily accepted. It was perfect! By volunteering in this capacity, I was able to set aside dedicated time to assist my fellow students, which allowed me the time I also needed to get my own work done.
Get Past the Stigma
From the start, we’re taught to treat our undergrad years as a marathon—get good grades, find a shadowing position, get involved in research, be an active NSSLHA member. One thing I’ve found interesting through all of this, is that even though my peers were struggling, they didn’t want to ask for help. As students in an academic field, I think we tend to turn our backs on tutoring because of negative stigma … because, smart people don’t need tutoring, right?
Even after starting tutoring sessions, students seemed to have some hesitation about asking questions. They’d wonder if they looked stupid, or thought I was getting annoyed with them. Some think having a tutor means the tutor is superior to them. But it’s the opposite! I became a tutor because I happened to excel in a class, and I wanted to help others do the same. Maybe you’re a part of a research project, taking heavier course loads, or have additional family obligations. There are so many reasons why someone may need a tutor. It has nothing to do with how smart you are.
The idea that asking for help makes someone less smart or less able is the reason why most students fail. But, how can we, as future practitioners, preach to clients the importance of self-advocacy if we’re too prideful to utilize it ourselves?
Customize Your Education
There’s a lot to be said about getting a tutor:
- You can focus on the topics that are really giving you trouble.
- They have the time to explain difficult concepts in several ways. So, if one way doesn’t work, try another!
- You have someone else to bounce ideas or thoughts off of.
- You can learn at your own pace.
- There’s less stress from wondering how others are doing.
- There are no distractions from phones, tablets, or TV.
You’re responsible for doing well in school. A grade isn’t just a reflection of how smart you are. It shows the number of hours spent studying, the attention paid to detail, and the willingness to seek help when needed. It’s important to know when it’s necessary to help ourselves.
If you’re struggling in a class, talk to your professor, reach out to your university’s tutoring center, ask friends for help. Know that you’re not alone and there is help out there for you.
Give Back—Help Your Peers
If you’re fortunate enough to have a sturdy understanding of some of the course material, make an attempt to help others. Be open to having friends ask you questions—let them know you’re available. Consider volunteering as a tutor in your university’s tutoring center as well. But, most importantly, reassure your peers who are struggling … let them know they’re not alone and together, you’ll work through it.
Not only will becoming a tutor allow you to help others, but check out these extra benefits:
- You’ll expand your own knowledge too. If you don’t know the answer to something, it gives you the opportunity to seek it out and share the knowledge.
- You’ll gain experience teaching experience—great if you want to go into the school setting.
- It’s a great resume booster!
As a tutor, I had the privilege of watching the growth and success of many of the students who regularly came to me. And it felt good to help them! If you need help, I encourage you to ask for it. And if you can provide support in return, do it. It’s a win-win for everyone! Who knows, maybe after you receive tutoring, you’ll end up being the pro and will be able to tutor the next cohort.